Deja Vu: Pro-Life Democrats to Determine ObamaCare Pushback

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 12, 2010   |   12:16PM   |   Washington, DC

In a bit of Deja vu, it appears two “pro-life Democrats” will play a key role in determining how hard the new Congress will push back against ObamaCare and its abortion funding.

Republicans captured the House of Representatives in last week’s congressional elections thereby giving pro-life advocates inroads to toppling or limiting the reach of ObamaCare and its abortion funding.

But the Senate, where GOP candidates fell short in their efforts to both defeat pro-abortion Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and to wrest control of the chamber, will likely decide the unpopular health care law’s fate.

Yesterday, pro-life Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said what pro-life advocates know but would rather not have to admit:  the Senate will stand in the way of repealing ObamaCare.

“I think the House will pass a repeal of the ObamaCare. But I believe it will die in the Senate because there’s not 60 votes in the Senate for it,” he told Iowa radio station KCIM. “And even if it passed Congress, I think the president would veto it and so we wouldn’t get two-thirds to ride the veto.”

The House may very well move ahead with a repeal bill, but Reid would not likely bring up the legislation in the Senate.

That leaves pro-life groups in the position of determining a game plan knowing the Senate doesn’t offer many positive prospects.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised Republicans will give repealing ObamaCare a shot but, likely, opponents of the health care law will have to settle for attempting to de-fund it.
“I think you’re going to have bits and pieces of it brought up that maybe we can win a small victory here and there,” Grassley said.

The goal considered by political observers to be more likely to succeed is the passing of legislation de-funding the health care plan and forcing the Senate into a showdown with the House over the budget bills the House originates.

To get support for the bills in the Senate, pro-life Republicans will likely rely on two Democrats who have shown openness to the pro-life cause:  Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Manchin has a strong pro-life record in Virginia, but he supported the ObamaCare measure despite the failure to prohibit abortion funding. Nelson won praise from pro-life advocates for an amendment to stop the funding, but voted for the bill anyway after losing the anti-funding battle.

Manchin won a Senate seat vowing to repeal “the bad parts of Obamacare,” and a Republican aide tells Politico GOP lawmakers will hold him to it. They will also try to lobby members like Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana — abortion advocates who face tough 2012 re-election campaigns. Manchin has to run for a full term in 2012, too, so he will have to tread carefully.

“Not only do you have new Democrats coming in who have campaigned against health care, you have Democrats up in 2012 who are running in relatively red states,” the aide said.

Looking at Manchin, he told the Charleston Gazette last week after the election: “I agree with health reform. Do I agree with everything in this package? No,” he said, adding, “I’ve always tried to fix things.”

Jake Thompson, Nelson’s spokesman, added, “Sen. Nelson would support some changes to the health care law and certain improvements that might be identified down the road. But in terms of repealing, that would not be his interest.”

Leading pro-life groups will press for change, but they will also press for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, the chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

It essentially combines all of the many different provisions pro-life advocates have pressed for in numerous bills covering various federal agencies and programs stopping abortion funding that have to be renewed annually and makes them permanent federal law.

But it also would apply to ObamaCare and stop any abortion funding possibly allowed under the measure.

The House is likely to approve the bill and pro-life lawmakers in the Senate will either have to force a deal with Reid to bring it up or attach it as an amendment to other legislation. Then it will face a potential Obama veto — depending on whether it is approved as a stand-alone bill or added to legislation Obama is more likely to sign.

In addition to Manchin, pro-life advocates would be counting on Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who has frequently disappointed with his pro-abortion votes despite his pro-life claims, to vote for the measure.

Though several Democrats who claimed to oppose abortion but voted for the pro-abortion ObamaCare bill lost election battles last Tuesday, the more things change, the more they appear to stay the same.